Wonderful Towers of Watts

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Will intrigue readers, and the artwork has a charm all its own." --Booklist

"The fascination of collecting and creating, of turning garbage into something splendid, shines through the book. . . . As well as being a story of individual human achievement, this could serve as an inspiration for some classroom art projects." --The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The book can stand on its own, but could also spark an interesting discussion on art and its role in our society." --School Library Journal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This true story describes an Italian immigrant who spent 30 years building mosaic-covered spires in the Watts section of Los Angeles; Lessac's art "captures the gaudy beauty of his achievement," said PW, although its fanciful interpretation "carries the book . . . away from history." Ages 5-up. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Beverly Kobrin
When Sam Rodia was about 47 years old, he began collecting broken bits of colored tiles, empty bottles, faucet handles, horseshoes, seashells, old shoes and other found objects. As he listened to grand opera after work, the Italian immigrant cemented together the odds and ends into sculptures that in thirty-three years transformed his California backyard into The Wonderful Towers of Watts, a magical city of streets, squares, fountains, steeples, spires and lacey flying buttresses. Patricia Zelver's story of the amateur architect/builder and his legacy is illustrated by Fran Lessac, whose gouaches capture the unpretentious artist and the imaginatively mosaicked constructions that decorate one corner of the Los Angeles landscape.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-This simply narrated picture book tells of Italian immigrant Simon Rodia, a self-styled artist who created unique constructions in inner-city Los Angeles. In addition to carting home broken tiles from the factory where he worked, Simon (known in the neighborhood as Old Sam) made a habit of collecting discarded objects that he came across in his travels. His amazing, lacy, intricate towers made from concrete and steel and decorated with bits of tile, glass, mirror, pottery, and seashells were his life's work, taking 33 years to build, and became objects of conversation, speculation, wonder, and delight within the Watts community. After city engineers declared them structurally sound, they became a permananent landmark, to be seen and admired by people from all over the world. Lessac's familiar gouache paintings fill the pages with soft rich colors. The cheerful double-page spreads provide an element of whimsy appropriate to the narrative and the towers themselves. The book can stand on its own, but could also spark an interesting discussion on art and its role in our society.-Corinne Camarata, Port Washington Public Library, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590782552
  • Publisher: Highlights Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 746,050
  • Age range: 5 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: AD860L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Patricia Zelver has written several books for children, including The Wedding of Don Octavio. Her stories have been selected eight times for Prize Stories: The O'. Henry Awards and have appeared in many anthologies. She and her husband live in Montana.

Frané Lessac has illustrated and written many books. Her own My Little Island was a Reading Rainbow Features Selection. Her paintings have been exhibited in galleries throughout the world. She lives in Fermantle, Australia, with her husband, their two children, a cat, and some fish.

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